How to Save on Groceries During Inflation
Depending on when you read this (because the Internet is forever), the US (or your country of residence) may be in a period of inflation. Inflation, a phenomenon where demand outpaces supply leading to higher prices, should not be confused with recession (two or more quarters of negative economic growth). Inflation is known to affect shopping behavior in many ways – and when it comes to stretching the grocery dollar as far as possible, there are many avenues to take. While this isn’t a comprehensive list, how many apply to you?
- Clipping coupons – Every year, 256.5 billion coupons are printed, with 99.6% of them going unredeemed – that’s more than 37,000 trees per day cut down for no reason! Clipping coupons that come in the newspaper, including freestanding inserts and unsolicited mail (junk mail) still happens, just not as much. There are many reasons for this downward trend. Most people get their news online and from TV these days, so there are fewer print coupons within easy reach sent to your home. Plus, it takes a lot of time many aren’t willing to spare to break out the scissors to clip, sort, bundle and then redeem the coupon at a cash register – if you’re lucky enough to remember bringing your coupons to the store. Thankfully, technology has swooped in to make life easier…
- Digital coupons and cash back offers – Retailers have long been offering digital coupons to members through loyalty programs, typically sent via email blasts or push notifications on apps. For the past ten years, Ibotta has steadily worked its way to becoming the #1 app in the US to offer digital cash back rewards at a wide variety of retailers. Unlike paper coupons, digital rewards are easy to review and redeem – best of all, they are applied automatically to your account without the cashier or people behind you in line knowing a thing. As digital rewards add up in your account, you can cash them in at a participating retailer, or request to be paid directly where you can spend that money however you want.
- Scaling back – When great deals and rewards can’t be found, many shoppers are moving items from their “needs” list to their “wants” list – meaning, they’ll buy items less often, if at all. The New York Times reports this doesn’t always mean skimping – people are likely to make sacrifices in some categories while enjoying indulgences in others.
- More home dining – During the pandemic, many restaurants switched exclusively to carry out, while others altered their physical layouts to slow the spread of the virus. Also during this time, many restaurant workers sought less risky, more reliable, and better paying work outside the sector. This collision of factors, alongside higher prices, have inspired more people to hone their home chef skills and cook more often at home.
- Buying in bulk and by volume – Warehouse stores and bulk bin aisles offer many ways for shoppers to save – read our complete guide here.
- Switching stores – When income is high and prices are low, it makes more sense to splurge a bit by patronizing higher end grocery stores. But when periods of inflation set in, value stores and discount outlets make more and more sense for saving.
- Embracing generics and private label products – Generic grocery products, the stark blank label products from the 1970’s and 80’s, have given way to better tasting, nicely packaged brands that are exclusive to specific retailers. Walmart, Whole Foods, Kroger, and Target all report having very popular private label brands – many of which compete at every price point, including premium – while Trader Joe’s is an example of an almost entirely private label store. According to the Private Label Marketing Association’s 2022 Private Label Report, private-label brand dollar share in 2021 was 17.7% while US sales hit an all-time high of $199 billion.
While nobody knows how long any period of inflation will last, these are a few of the tried and true ways you can stretch weekly grocery shopping dollars as far as possible and save money on groceries during inflation periods.